They called it the event of a lifetime.
Dozens of Atlanta women and their husbands made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Hadassah’s centennial celebration Oct. 15-18.
“To be able to celebrate the centennial in Jerusalem is almost impossible to put into words,” said Southeast Region president Ruthanne Warnick before a Mediterranean dinner at ZaZa restaurant in the Khan Theatre, where “y’alls” filled the air. Some 70 members from the Southeast Region attended the convention, making for one of the largest showings from North America.
“It’s a most exciting year,” agreed Greater Atlanta Hadassah president Sue Rothstein, sitting at a table with several members of the Mount Scopus group, which comprises women mostly from Toco Hills, Intown, Decatur, Northlake and Stone Mountain. “I’ve been looking forward to it since they announced we’d have a centennial convention here and dedicate a new tower.”
During the four days of the event, Hadassah women dedicated the Sarah Wetsman Davidson Hospital Tower at Ein Kerem. The 19-story, $363 million building is a gift to the people of Israel on Hadassah’s 100th anniversary; scheduled for completion in 2013, it will feature expanded medical technologies plus 20 operating rooms, 60 intensive care beds and more than 500 fully equipped beds in rooms overlooking the Judaean hills.
Judy Viness, Southeast Region vice president and Greater Atlanta Hadassah past president, kvelled about this achievement.
“I had to see this new hospital,” she said. “So many of us feel we’ve built this hospital ourselves. I’m so proud of it.”
Hadassah is credited with creating the basis for Israel’s modern health industry. A group of American women headed by Henrietta Szold founded the organization in 1912 to foster and improve health and education conditions for women and children in the Holy Land.
Rabbi Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, noted in a symposium at the convention that Hadassah Hospital serves everyone equally.
“You’ve given Israel a huge gift,” he said. “My bracha [blessing] to you is don’t sit on your glories. We need you for the next 100 years.”
Knesset member Yitzhak Herzog, who also spoke about major strategic issues and the future of Israel, concurred.
“I tell people if you want to know how people live together in this country, go to the various departments of Hadassah Hospital,” Herzog said. “We are grateful to you [Hadassah members] for your incredible support of Israel.”
That support was in evidence all week. Nearly 2,000 delegates paraded through Jerusalem wearing red t-shirts emblazoned with the Hadassah centennial logo. They wound up at the palm tree-lined Safra Square, where men blowing shofars welcomed them; musicians, dancers and stilt-walkers entertained them; and Mayor Nir Barkat applauded them.
Travel and sightseeing were high on the agenda as well. Viness implored everyone at the Southeast Region dinner to wear comfortable shoes during their stay in Israel.
“Fashion statements are irrelevant on this trip,” she said wryly.
Barbara and Dennis Lewitt of Acworth did a pre-tour of Tel Aviv, Eilat and Petra, Jordan; the couple named seeing the Western Wall in Jerusalem among their trip highlights. Anita and Philip Levy of Decatur visited the former’s brother on a kibbutz in the Hula Valley and enjoyed side trips to the Golan, a Crusaders castle and a winery.
“We’ve been looking forward to this for years,” Anita said of the Hadassah centennial convention. “The only thing I’m worried about is it will be over too quickly.”
The week did whiz by, with each day rich in visits to ancient and modern sites and presentations by academics, journalists, rabbis and politicians (including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and former Kadima party head Tzipi Livni).
These speakers, like all those in attendance, saluted Hadassah, its 100 years of contribution to the Jewish homeland and its commitment to a second century of partnership in education and medicine.
BY RONDA ROBINSON / FOR THE ATLANTA JEWISH TIMES
Editor’s note: Ronda Robinson is the author of “Beyond Politics: Inspirational People of Israel”; visit israelbeyondpolitics.com for more information. She will be speaking Nov. 4 at the Book Festival of the MJCCA and Nov. 13 at Temple Kol Emeth in Marietta.